The decision to leave a marriage is one that most people do not take lightly — and even less so when children are involved. Children deeply desire to see their parents happily married and living together. That is not to say that parents who are not happily married should maintain a façade for their children’s sake. If you are contemplating divorce but are reluctant to do so because you fear it may harm your children — think again.
Parents provide children with the first and most significant relationship model. When parents treat each other with respect, warmth, generosity, and focused attention, children learn that as a pattern of behavior. When parents are unhappily married and there is arguing, criticism, abuse, aloofness, and inattentiveness, children learn to model that kind of conduct. Therefore, it is not the act of being married that is good for children, but rather the positive interaction that affects children for the better. In some cases, parents who get divorced are more able to model positive human interaction for their children.
Studies show that children who live with abusive parents have lower self-esteem, are more likely to drop out of school, and have a higher rate of drug and alcohol abuse than their peers who do not. Whether the abuse is restricted to the marital partners or includes abuse or neglect of the children, children who grow up with abuse suffer significant psychological harm.
In contrast to what we know to be the long-term, destructive effects of abuse on children, the effects of divorce on children are not universal. The most recent studies identify some depression, struggle with school, and social anxieties in children within the first two years post-divorce, after which the children of divorced parents are about equal to those from intact marriages. In many cases, there are benefits for children when parents who are unhappily married finally do divorce, such as:
Divorce is difficult for children, and there can be some emotional fallout. If you do decide to divorce, be sure to garner support in every form for yourself and your children. Start by hiring a highly skilled divorce attorney who can help you understand your rights and obligations while dissolving your marriage.
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